Gibson Flying V, '59
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Competition with other companies has always pressed Gibson into coming up with its most innovative designs. The rivalry with Epiphone in the 1920s and 1930s encouraged both companies to produce the finest acoustic archtop guitars of all time.
By the 1950s when amplified guitars had gained prominence, a new company entered the competition: Fender. Its founder Leo Fender had developed the first mass produced solid body electric guitar. Gibson president Ted McCarty took notice when the Fender Telecaster’s sales became significant, and developed a fancier solid body for Gibson with the help of guitar wizard, Les Paul. The classy looking Les Paul Model in turn, inspired Leo to come up with his futuristic masterpiece, the Stratocaster.
When Ted McCarty saw that the Fender Stratocaster was selling, he decided that Gibson needed to come up some wild, exciting designs of its own so as not to be seen as old-fashioned and conservative. After examining the designs of several artists (including himself), McCarty choose three designs to have patented in June of 1957. These were the Explorer, the Modern and the Flying V.
The patents were granted in January of 1958. While prototypes of each were made, only the Explorer and the Flying V made it into production.
These Flying Vs and Explorers of the late ‘50s were made of a light colored African mahogany called Korina. McCarty chose this wood because blonde hued furniture was popular at the time, and no additional bleaching or tinting was required. These “Modernistic” guitars initially created the excitement they were meant to, but didn’t catch on with the guitar buying public until years after the initial small run had been discontinued. More info
Formerly owned by my friend & mentor Pete Alenov (may he rest in peace), He taught me a lot about the guitar business, and I think of him whenever I look at this one. This V was featured on the January 2006 Vintage Guitar Magazine cover!